Houston (51-51) at St. Louis (56-49)

Fair Currently: St. Louis, MO
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 8:15 pm EDT Fri Jul 31, 2009
  • TV: FSSW, FSMW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The last time Houston and St. Louis met, the Astros swept the series to pull within one game of the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

While St. Louis has fallen out of first place since that series ended last week, Houston isn’t the team that’s capitalized.

The Cardinals look to reclaim the top spot in the division with their fourth win in five games Friday night when they open a three-game series against the struggling Astros.

St. Louis dropped three straight at Houston from July 20-22 to have its lead in the Central cut to one game. The Astros (51-51) haven’t been able to sustain their surge in the standings, but the Cardinals (56-49) still fell out of first place Thursday.

The Chicago Cubs took over the division lead because they beat Houston during the day and St. Louis lost 5-3 in 10 innings to the Los Angeles Dodgers at night.

Matt Holliday(notes), acquired from Oakland last Friday, hit his first homer with his new club and became the first Cardinal since Bo Hart in 2003 to hit safely in his first seven games. But St. Louis was outhit 12-6, including 4-1 with runners in scoring position.

Despite that defeat, it was an encouraging series for the Cardinals, who took three of four from the team with the best record in the majors.

The Astros didn’t come away feeling nearly as good about their four-game set at Wrigley Field. Houston, which has dropped five of six, was outscored 24-3 while losing the last two games.

“It stinks coming here and losing,” infielder Geoff Blum(notes) told the Astros’ official Web site after Thursday’s 12-3 defeat. “We had a chance to take advantage of the situation and get possibly to the top of the heap, and get a couple of steps closer and we lost a step.”

The Astros’ last two starters have combined to give up 18 runs in 6 1-3 innings. That’s a trend the club hopes to stop with Brian Moehler(notes) (7-6, 5.16 ERA) taking the mound Friday.

The right-hander held the Cardinals to two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 victory last Monday, improving to 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in three starts against them since last June.

While Moehler has had some success against St. Louis lately, it isn’t because he’s thrived against Albert Pujols(notes). The major league leader with 34 homers and 92 RBIs is 9 for 17 (.529) with three homers, two doubles and three walks in his career against Moehler.

Moehler gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of his last outing, an 8-3 home loss to the New York Mets on Sunday.

The Cardinals will promote Mitchell Boggs(notes) (1-0, 3.22) from Triple-A Memphis to start the series opener. The right-hander, who spent about a month in the majors earlier this season, had held opponents to one run over 21 innings spanning his last three starts with the Redbirds.

“I think he’s pitched effectively down there,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the team’s official Web site. “He’s a developing pitcher and he’s learning all the time.”

Boggs gave up one run in two innings of relief in his only previous appearance against Houston last June 6.

While the Astros won three straight over the Cardinals in Houston last week, they were swept in their previous series in St. Louis from April 10-12. They’ve lost nine of 11 at Busch Stadium since Sept. 22, 2007.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Moehler Hou vs. M. Boggs Bos
8-12 Record 2-3
5.47 ERA 4.19
91 K 46
51 BB 33
1.54 WHIP 1.79

Scoreboard

Friday, Jul 31